Health, COVID-19 Take a ‘Back Seat’ at G-7, Experts Says

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In their communiqué, G-7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enable global access and delivery of lifesaving tools such as vaccines to overcome the pandemic, tackle antimicrobial resistance, and step up efforts on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

They also reiterated their support for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator; the establishment of a new financial intermediary fund housed at the World Bank for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response; polio eradication efforts; and the successful replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

But some experts say the statements don’t go far enough to realize ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After a year of broken promises over equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, these platitudes from G7 leaders ring hollow,” Julia Kosgei, policy advisor to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said in a statement.

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The G-7 spoke of exceeding their commitment in 2021 in terms of sharing vaccine doses, saying they’ve made available to date more than 1.175 billion vaccine doses. Data from March 2022 – the latest one available – from the Multilateral Leaders Task Force on COVID-19 showed however that millions of confirmed donations have yet to be received by countries.

Kosgei also said that if the “G7 leaders actually want to save lives, they can immediately extend the limited patent waiver agreed for COVID-19 vaccines to also cover lifesaving treatments.” The recent agreement at the World Trade Organization limits waiving patents to COVID-19 vaccines.

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Commitments to deliver on the vaccine doses, and meet ACT-A’s current funding needs, were missing, said Cynthia Liao and Theo Beal, Academy for Leadership fellows at Chatham House.

“One year on, economic and security priorities have pushed health priorities into the back seat even while the world is still in the midst of a global pandemic. This is coherent, given the multiple crises facing the world today especially in developing countries. But it is dangerous to slow investments in COVID-19 response when cases are surging and new variants emerging,” they told Devex via email.

“G7 countries seemed to have forgotten the lessons from the pandemic and should be aware of risks from deprioritizing global health issues,” they added.

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A source familiar with the discussions shared the same concerns, saying leaders have “deprioritized pandemic prevention and ending the current Covid pandemic.” There wasn’t even a separate summary or annex on health — which was the case for other issues, such as the war in Ukraine and on global food security, the source said.

The G-7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which formally launched this week, however, includes health as a pillar. According to a White House fact sheet, this includes developing and upgrading health systems infrastructure as well as investments in the health workforce and in the manufacturing of vaccines and other essential medical products.

 

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